Credit card payments readmitted

Ashlee Clark

new partnership on the Hill may make the cost of tuition more affordable for some students and families.

Interim controller and bursar Belinda Higginbotham said a partnership with Tuition Management Systems is allowing students to use credit cards and divide tuition payments into three monthly installments.

As part of last spring’s $5.6 million budget cut, Western’s Billing and Receivables Office decided to no longer accept credit cards as payment for tuition, fees, room and board as of July 21.

The partnership allows students to pay with credit cards without the university facing processing costs.

Western’s processing costs from credit cards recently totaled $350,000 per year, Higginbotham said.

“When we had such a large budget cut in February, some very difficult decisions were made at that time,” she said.

Crystal Volmar, a member service representative for Tuition Management Systems, said 1,164 students chose their interest-free monthly payment option.

“It allows students to spread out payments over a longer period of time,” Volmar said.

A $40 enrollment fee is charged each semester a student uses the payment option.

The three monthly payments are due at the beginning of each month, Volmar said.

Tuition Management Systems, a Rhode Island based company, was chosen after a competitive selection process, Higginbotham said.

The university’s credit card processing fees were based on the amount of the charge, she said.

“As tuition goes up and the number of students goes up, the amount we pay goes up,” she said.

About 1,600 students used the company’s services just to pay with a credit card, Higginbotham said.

Students paying with a credit card are now charged a convenience fee from Tuition Management Systems, which averages between 2 percent and 3 percent of the payment amount.

Volmar said she doesn’t know if more students will use the new payment option in the spring, but she said the number of students participating should increase.

“We’ll do more marketing measures to capture freshmen earlier,” she said.

The billings office received several phone calls after the university sent notices to students about not accepting credit cards, Higginbotham said.

“With any new process, there is some confusion,” she said.

The university will be sending out information in October about payment options for the spring semester’s tuition, she said.

Steve Owens, assistant bursar for cashiers, said credit cards are still accepted at many locations on campus, such as the police department and the Health Services Center.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected].